News Brief

New Directions for Mindful Materials

More than a database, mindful Materials is taking on an advocacy and convener role focused on healthy and sustainable materials.

Disclaimer: BuildingGreen is a technical advisory partner to mindful Materials.

Headshots of two women

Annie Bevan and Alex Muller are now at the helm of mindful Materials and have set their sights on broader impact. 

Photos courtesy of Annie Bevan and Alex Muller
When you think of mindful Materials (mM), you may think of stickers. That’s how the whole thing got started: HKS developed binder labels meant to help its designers quickly identify products in their product library that had transparency labels like health product declarations (HPDs) and environmental product declarations (EPDs). HKS spun out the initiative in 2014, cognizant that many firms had similar needs, and volunteers continued to develop what had then become an online database of product information. Now, mindful Materials is a full-fledged organization with paid staff at the helm.

The database will always be core, says Annie Bevan, mindful Material’s executive director. “We’re here to streamline the process of finding sustainability data for materials.” But the organization is also in a position to consider whether all of that sustainability data truly reflects all the reasons we need to be improving materials. “There are so many ‘whys’ behind making better material decisions,” says Bevan. “Carbon, jobsite exposures, social hotspots, cancer alley…we need a common language to say ‘here is what good looks like in terms of material action.’”

To that end, there are two areas beyond their database that the organization is trying to develop: harmonizing what is reflected in the database with broader definitions of sustainability and fleshing out a neutral space for collaboration and community.

For example, there’s a working group that’s trying to establish a materials baseline from which improvement can then be measured, says Bevan.  There’s also an opportunity to think about how mM aligns with widely used frameworks like the AIA Materials Pledge, according to Alex Muller, director of collaborative impact at mindful Materials. “My hope is that mindful Materials becomes a connection point to track and deliver on the materials pledge,” she says. “We want more people to sign onto that so we get to have bigger conversations.”

Muller also hopes that mM can be the collection place for the various advocacy letters and initiatives that have been issued over the years—the letters requesting manufacturers develop healthier materials and the letters from manufacturers begging designers to spec the materials they’ve developed. “We have to get the feedback to the manufacturers. We have to prove return on investment. Not just because money makes the world go ’round, but because we have to prove that this work actually changes what architects are doing.”

Mindful Materials’ working groups and community forums provide a space for that feedback loop and opportunities for collaboration. “We are trying to drive conversations up and down the values chain,” says Bevan.

Ultimately, the problem mM is trying to solve is redundancy. “The worst thing that could happen is everyone repeatedly having to figure it out how to find or make better materials on their own,” says Muller. That’s the huge opportunity—bringing the current expertise into one space and raising the bar for everyone else.

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Published July 6, 2021

Pearson, C. (2021, June 24). New Directions for Mindful Materials . Retrieved from

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